Gregory Maguire's second novel is a reworking of the Cinderella tale. Set in seventeenth century Holland the novel focuses on Ruth and Iris, the two daughters of a dutch woman returned to her home country after her English husband is killed in East Anglia. Lacking any fortune or luck, they start their new life working with a genre painter before moving to the household of a business man and tulip dealer.

The Cinderella figure, Clara, the beautiful daughter of this rich merchant, is a neurotic loner who believes she is a changeling. Ruth, the eldest, the "ungainly ox" is mentally retarded. Iris, the narrator, is far from lovely but has wit and talent as a storyteller and painter.

Whilst the story follows some of the familiar patterns of the well known fairy tale (the wicked stepmother, the ball, the prince charming with the slipper) it opens up the variations that deviate from the standard. Cinderella has chosen her life in the ashes as an escape, Iris has little patience with her mother's scheming and social climbing. And the story has enough depth to transcend the limited formula of a traditional fairy tale.

Setting the tale amid the tulip fever and the dutch art world seems a little heavy handed at times, but it's an appropriate background setting. It's not as magical and fluid as his previous novel, 'Wicked', but it's a more interesting reworking than, say, 'Ever After'. Worth reading, if you enjoy new takes on old tales.

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